Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Nairn's London by Routemaster

That's Ross Bradshaw, posing as if he was Ian Nairn on the front cover of Nairn's London, just re-issued by Penguin Books. Five Leaves basks in the glow of this as our Ian Nairn: Words in Place helped launch Nairnmania on November 10th 2013, which led to a TV programme and the release of the Penguin book. Indeed, we planned to release it at one stage before discovering that Penguin still owned the rights.
On 30th November fifty Nairnites boarded this bus - the same one that Nairn pretended to drive in 1966 - though with a different driver than Ross, for a guided tour round places dear to Ian Nairn.
The tour started on the Mile End Road in the Foxcroft & Ginger trendy cafe (two coffees - £6.19) which had been carved out of Wickham's department store of 1920. The building still has its doric columns interrupted by the remains of Spiegelhalter's the jeweller. How annoyed Wickham's must have been to have to have built round the little jewellery shop. By the way, if you ever go down the Mile End Road stop off at the 1695 alms houses for decayed ships' captains.
The next stop was The Whitechapel Bell Foundry, established in 1570 which, well, founds bells. The current founder in chief is a woman, the first in 450 years, striking a blow for women bell founders everywhere. Whitechapel made the bells of Big Ben, one small example of their work.
We then moved to the Bevis Marks synagogue "[A] great luminous room, compassionate light streaming in through big clear glass windows on to a set of curly brass chandeliers from Amsterdam that are almost at eye level. Nothing has fretted it or worried it for two hundred and fifty years... " said Nairn.
On further into the city to Leadenhall Market where once it was "... a riot of fish and fowl with row after row of turkeys and chickens on hooks right up to the cornice and the glass roof". Nowadays the fish and fowl have all gone, being replaced by bankers, plotting evil financial deeds in their wine bars as Leadenhall is next to the Lloyds building, which, I was pleased to see, is starting to look tatty.
Onwards to the Hill & Evans vinegar warehouse "Victorian wildness... demonaic" but now looking quite cuddly in front of the scary "cheesegrater" building that looks like it is going to flatten us all in its collapse.
Cheapside... West Smithfield... St Bartholemew-the-less... and a baked potato in a Chinese cafe that caters to taxi drivers. Past St Pauls, and off at Hawksmoor's Christ Church,. Spitalfields, looking naked without its pews. Up Fournier Street to see the Huguenots houses. The Five Leaves author Bill Fishman was once offered one for a thousand pounds. He did not have a thousand pounds. The buildings are now worth a couple of million each.
Back from the East End to the back of Kings Cross for talks and films. The panels included Gillian Darley, co-editor of our Ian Nairn book and Gavin Stamp, a contributor who also wrote the intro to the new Nairn's London. Our venue was The Cock Tavern in Somers Town, an Irish pub with a real fire, hanging on against the developers. The highlight for me was the talk by Travis Elborough on the Routemaster, which included some great film clips including the most ghastly performance by Tom Jones.
It was here that the event organiser David Collard sat on the bookstall table, and went through it, his Guinness doing a perfect parabola to go splat on twelve copies of our book. It somehow seemed appropriate that drink would provide a final focus, given the impact of the stuff on Ian Nairn. His death certificate was referred to in one of the discussions. People can imagine it. The table in question, now also deceased, is, Michael Rosen tells me, the very same table at which the executive committee of the Communist Party of Britain would sit round while plotting their revolution. I won the prize for the most battered copy of an original Nairn's London, the prize included a now drink-sodden copy of our own book, a new edition of London, a bottle of London Pride (declined) and a fine box of Nairn's Oatcakes. David was unharmed and is planning a rerun for all those who tried to get on the bus but will have to wait for the next one coming along in a year's time.


This note from David Collard, one of the contributors to Sonofabook. I'll echo that It's a Good Thing. And it will be on sale at Five Leaves Bookshop.

Please excuse this impersonal email. 

I'm sending this to everyone I know who is likely to be interested in Sonofabook, a new literary magazine launching in March 2015. This includes you, my anonymised friend.

Sonofabook assembles an illustrious roster of contributors living and dead, yet also finds room for an essay by myself. Click on this link to see the striking cover. Go on. 

Subscribe now and you'll not only get the first three numbers but can choose a free book from CB editions, including their forthcoming reissue of Agota Kristof's novels The Proof and The Third Lie.

(If you haven't yet discovered Kristof you're in for a big and beneficial shock. The main obstacle to British readers is her name - but a writer more unlike the creator of Hercule Poirot is impossible to imagine.)

Do spread the word about Sonofabook. It's a Good Thing.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A brace of launches for Curious Kentish Town at Owl Bookshop

Announcing another launch event for Curious Kentish Town on Monday 24th November at 6.30pm
The launch of Curious Kentish Town on Monday 17th November 2014 at 6.30pm is now fully booked. Please email if you would like to attend the 24th November event.
Entry is free but is by ticket only.
Owl Bookshop
209 Kentish Town Rd
London NW5 2JU
Tel 020 7485 7793
Curious Kentish Town
Martin Plaut & Andrew Whitehead
Book Launch
Monday 24th November

Please join us to celebrate the publication of a new book about Kentish Town

Where did Oswald Mosley first lead his fascists after the Battle of Cable Street?
Which Kentish Town rent strike inspired a Peggy Seeger song? Where does the long lost Fleet river break cover? Or followed, quite literally, in the tracks of the piano industry?

Do you know about the horse tunnels at Camden Lock...the ghost sign advertising maids’ caps and aprons in Dartmouth Park... the African revolutionary who made his home near Tufnell Park?

Curious Kentish Town explores more than thirty locations across this part of north London and brings to life the remarkable stories attached to them, with the help of a wealth of photographs and illustrations. An artist-designed map will help you follow in the authors’ footsteps.

Martin and Andrew, both journalists who have lived in the area for decades and love it, will discuss the book, followed by questions and answers.

The event on the 17th November is fully booked and will be very busy with limited seating. If your email request has been acknowledged and you would prefer to attend the second event on the 24th please let us know and we will move your reservation.  


Sunday, 2 November 2014

New from Five Leaves - Curious Kentish Town

We are pleased to announce Five Leaves' latest title, Curious Kentish Town by Martin Plaut and Andrew Whitehead. Andrew previously edited our London Fictions book, and runs the website of the same name. There is also a website for Curious Kentish Town, which will be updated as more curiousities emerge. The book will tell you which Kentish Town rent strike inspired a Peggy Seeger song, what happened to the Fleet river and all you need to know about the horse tunnels at Camden Lock. Lots of curious stories, and lots of photographs.
The Curious website is at, which includes a big feature on the book in this week's Camden New Journal.
Kentish Town area residents can buy the book at The Owl and other nearby bookshops as well as the usual outlets like Housmans and, post free, from Five Leaves on 0115 8373097.
Curious Kentish Town
9781910170069, 92 pages, £7.95.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Since we're adding some reviews... Things of Substance by Liz Cashdan in Orbis


Things of Substance: New and Selected Poems by Liz Cashdan, 156pp, £8.99, Five Leaves Publications, PO Box 8786, Nottingham NG 9AW

At the heart of this collection is a deep need to teach the next generation about the past. Reading this volume is to be invited into a long-lived life, with its own texture and significance. Objects carry the sense of an era as well as a family history, as in ‘Bakelite Telephone’, 'square and squat with joined / ear and mouthpiece, balanced nicely / on the crossbar of the telephone frog', bringing life-changing news: ‘From Barts it relayed my father’s death, / sealed the selling of the family house.’
   The poet swings through her own past, from object to object, and brings back to the reader a world where a child could have her tonsils removed on the table where she does her homework. There are Wordsworthian moments, as in ‘Lost Time,’ we are recollecting in tranquillity, drawing back from 'years ago' the sound and feel of trekking in the Lake District, where the one-inch map 'is all / I've had to keep the singing beck in tune, to keep / the dizziness of the mountain spinning in my head'. A beautiful image, 'look where the beck slips its stony collars' brings this world with a rush to the mind's eye.
   The new work bring us up to date with the author’s present life, and the predominantly ‘plain style’ conveys the energy with which she relishes the good times and the stoicism of her acceptance of life's inevitable losses - illness, stiff joints, broken bones - she's 'not bovvered.'
   The lived life is there on every page.  There is joy in new experiences, new tastes, the first time she eats an avocado, ice-cream 'slithering' down a sore throat, physical life is embraced and everywhere her celebration of the tangible substance of the natural world.
   Adventurous and educational travel inform us of the poet’s concern for politics and the conditions people endure in diverse cultures and we see many curious things en route, such as Gagarin’s appendix in Moscow. We are invited to the ancient past in ‘The Tyre-Cairo Letters’ sequence. We identify with the fractured relationship between Sadaka and his father in 1090. The poet teases out politics, religious differences and the problems with arranged marriages in this part of the world through epistolatory poems.
   The third section is ‘A Guide to Hospitals.’ It deals with health setbacks, of the poet and others and contemplates the selfless life of Henrietta Lacks, 'She dies but her cancer cells keep / growing’, the black American woman who had her cells removed by the medical profession without her permission and who has unknowingly advanced the study of cancer.
   This collection celebrates a life well-lived: poet, teacher, mother, grandmother, Liz Cashdan reaches out to all of us to urge us not only to get on with things but, despite the obstacles we encounter, to do it with gusto.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Long Poem Magazine on 1948, by Andy Croft

Timothy Ad├Ęs on Andy Croft 1948 A Novel in Verse (Five Leaves £7.99.)
A book called 1948,
made of some eighty Pushkin stanzas,
by Martin Rowson illustrate,
riots of rhyme, extravaganzas.
The cover's ruddy bloody garish
and Rowson's drawings quite nightmarish,
obsessive as the text, but still, full
of telling detail, very skilful. 
London Olympics, shocks galore:
spies and political skulduggery,       
trade unions, left-wing mags and thuggery
and Orwell's 1984.
'A, b, a, b, cc, dd,'
it rhymes; 'e, f, f, e, gg.'

Alberti, Attlee, Blandish, Blunden, 
Brecht, Bulldog Drummond, Helen Gahagan,
Greene, Harlow, Marlowe, Lorre, London,
Sartre, Frank Waxman, Ronald Reagan,
Thirkell, not Churchill, Harry Truman,
all rhymed! - it's almost superhuman.
I'm bound to ask: what rhymes with Pushkin?
Stravinsky's violinist Dushkin.
(No triple rhymes, no terza rima:
I could have added Ariane
Mnouchkine, but that must be foregone:
no flagpole on this Iwo Jima.)
Pro-Russian Proms 'have picked The Nose
to bring the season to a close.'
So here's my chance to rhyme Onegin,
since these are called 'Onegin sonnets',
with Fagin, or Menachem Begin - 
a donnish jest - quiet flows the Donets! -
He won't be pleased, so please don't tell 'im:
he's miles less mild than Bassa Selim, 
the liberal enlightened Turk
in Mozart's oriental work.
Anyway, as I said before, well-
constructed pacey period thriller -
Winston and Spiller thwart the killer! -
all based on Eric Blair (George Orwell).
Drain down that draught! Hurl hats aloft!
Hail, handicraft of Andy Croft!